Frost-Tolerant Flowers: Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day October 2014

– Posted in: What's up/blooming

Life as we know it doesn’t end with the first frost. Beauty doesn’t stop, either. We have had several light frosts (28.5F/-1.9C was the coldest) but no hard freezes, which means many garden plants are still going strong. (Do you know the difference between a frost and a freeze?)

Flowers in the house

I was able to gather several containers of fresh flowers for a friend’s wedding this past Monday. And there was still plenty more left outside.

snapdragons dianthus hydrangeas

Snapdragons, dianthus, and hydrangeas

Tall snapdragons make excellent cut flowers and aren’t fazed by a light frost. Many Hydrangea paniculata cultivars bloom white but develop an attractive pink flush as they age, and although Hydrangea macrophylla isn’t as cold-resistant, I still found a few more protected blossoms in the back of the shrub that still had their blue or pink flowers unmarred.
Flowering tobacco and Romanian sage

Flowering tobacco and Romanian sage

Tall flowering tobaccos are a mainstay of my fall garden. These pink-flushed nicotianas are third generation offspring of named varieties my sister grew from seed and shared with me. The original Romanian sage (Salvia transsylvanica) was given to me by contributor Craig Levy. I notice many sites list it as hardy to USDA Zone 6, but it has been thriving for me ever since Craig gave it to me, and even self-sows. Of course, if I deadheaded it, I’d have more flowers but less plants to give away.
cold hardy roses

Roses are still putting out a few blooms

Most of the roses in the vase above were buds when I cut them and brought them in the house. I don’t know if they would have eventually opened or not if I had left them to their own devices. But when the buds show color, I generally have success getting them to bloom indoors, where it’s easier to enjoy them on rainy days. You do have to look carefully. Sometimes the most promising buds are in the back or closer to the ground.

Flowers outdoors



The earliest-blooming colchicums have petered out, but many of the mid- to late-season colchicums are still going strong.
Self-sown petunias

Self-sown petunias

These petunias are descendants of plants grown by the previous owner. They just showed up and I’m sure they don’t look anything like their more highly-bred parents. Still, they were free and are still blooming freely.
dianthus rainbow loveliness

‘Rainbow Loveliness’ cottage pinks

These cottage pinks are on their second flush of bloom. Boy, are they fragrant in a vase. Did you notice them tucked in with the snapdragons above?
Heterotheca villosa 'Ruth Baumgardner'

Heterotheca villosa ‘Ruth Baumgardner’

Ruth Baumgardner was a past president of the Perennial Plant Association and this cultivar of hairy golden aster was named in her honor. I have two small clumps (small in circumference; the plants are 4-5 feet tall) and I can only imagine what a huge stand would look like. This is a great companion for tall ornamental grasses or would be great in a traditional perennial border if pinched back before July–which I have yet to try.

Flowers just getting started

Hillside Sheffield pink chrysanthemum

Hillside Sheffield pink chrysanthemum

So far I’ve talked about plants that have been blooming for a while. The ‘Hillside Sheffield Pink’ mum (Dendranthema), really closer to an apricot or salmon color, is just getting started.
'Jin Dai' aster

‘Jindai’ aster

And I am still waiting for the ‘Jindai’ aster (Aster tartaricus) to bloom.

Not flowers at all

Of course, not matter what the season, foliage contributes color and beauty to the garden as well. I won’t even get started on the trees. That’s what everyone thinks of when you mention “colorful autumn foliage.” But there’s so much more!

'Irish Eyes' rudbeckia and hosta

‘Irish Eyes’ rudbeckia and hosta

Many kinds of rudbeckia are still blooming. I love how the color of the hosta matches the center of the ‘Irish Eyes’ rudbeckia nestled beside it.
Japanese blood grass and blackberry lily

Japanese blood grass and blackberry lily

The Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica) has been deepening in color all season, and the foliage of blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) provides a striking contrast.
golden hosta foliage in autumn

Another hosta

This hosta positively glows. And did you notice the heuchera in the opening image? That’s Dolce Cinnamon Curls heuchera from Proven Winners. The foliage of most coral bells looks stunning until snow falls.

Eat from your garden, too


Two kinds of kale

Frost does take out tomatoes, peppers, and many other heat loving plants, but there’s plenty left to eat. Kale actually tastes better after a frost, as do many members of the cole (cabbage) family. If we had planned things better, we could still be eating broccoli from our garden, and Brussels sprouts, too–if we liked them! Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, beets, and turnips are also sweeter after a frost.

More to come!

Fall crocus are just getting started, and I hope to see some hellebores blooming in November. Violas and pansies are also blooming now, but they are the one flower people expect to see blooming after frost.

Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens, and leave a link in Mr. Linky and the comments of May Dreams Gardens.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

Diana Noonan November 9, 2014, 12:52 am

Is that a heuchera I see before me – the one at the top of the blog covered in frost? I’ve just discovered heuchera (I write a weekly garden column – ) and came upon them while researching cold climate colour. Aren’t they glorious! Now I can’t wait for winter (July here in NZ) to see the ones I’ve just acquired covered in ice. Beautiful photo. Great blog.

A Student Gardener October 23, 2014, 8:06 pm

Great informative post.

Margaret Graziano October 22, 2014, 12:39 pm

I loved this article! The pictures were excellent and description were on target. I especially like the picture of “Irish Eyes”.
It appeared to be a happy face. Thank you for a spirit uplift.

eric mot October 22, 2014, 10:45 am

Kathy this is excellent, my mother likes flowers all year round in Canada. I going to give website info not only to my Mother but all my Canadian friends.

Les October 19, 2014, 5:49 am

Your Colchicum is lovely, especially because of the simplicity of a large mass against that stone wall. I’m afraid the few I have planted need more members of their own kind to look well.

Kathy Purdy October 19, 2014, 12:35 pm

Those particular ones (‘Giant’) multiply well. I started out with three corms, and probably have given away as many as you see along that wall.

Dee Nash October 18, 2014, 7:43 am

Kathy, the garden sometimes gets lovelier here after a frost or two. My Sheffies have just started to bud. I do have another mum finally blooming. It’s in a warmer spot of the garden against the house. Love your colchicums against that dark rock wall. Oh, and your bouquets are stunning. The first one in the purple vase is my favorite. Have a great day! ~~Dee

Frank October 18, 2014, 7:27 am

You still have quite a bit growing and flowering, looks great! I love the snapdragons. The spikes are so long, did you grow them especially for cut flowers?

Kathy Purdy October 18, 2014, 9:06 am

Frank, I cut those from my daughter’s garden and I believe they were self-sown from last year. But there are snapdragons that are bred to grow tall, for example, these tall snapdragons from Botanical Interests.

Anne October 18, 2014, 6:12 am

Hi Kathy!

Those petunias are really pretty. How I wish I could have some of those. People who have “green thumb” are really lucky for they can plant in their own garden. Anyway, you got a lovely arrangement. I love the colors and it looks really good to my eyes.

Robin Ripley October 17, 2014, 9:01 am

Gorgeous arrangements, Kathy. It’s a treat to have flowers in the house–and to know that they haven’t been treated with chemical sprays.

Eva October 16, 2014, 12:23 pm

the Kale looks absolutely delightful to my eyes. I love the colors. The bloodgrass is not an option here. Tried it two times but it froze away.
Lovely grass – wish it would thrive here in Denmark.

Kathy Purdy October 16, 2014, 1:27 pm

Eva, what would you say is your minimum temperature in winter? And do you have good snow cover? I thought that grass would not be hardy for me, either, but I tried it and so far it has pulled through. But we haven’t had such cold winters as we once did. I am always interested in learning how plants fare in different climates. All cold climates are cold, but they are not cold in the same way.

Donna@GardensEyeView October 16, 2014, 9:06 am

Kathy you remind me of a few flowers I have not planted or haven’t planted in a few years like the nicotianas. I need to still add more Colchicums though.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern October 16, 2014, 8:55 am

Wonderful! Such beautiful bouquets and that drift of colchicums along the stone wall took my breath away – I really must add some of those to my garden and thanks to you, I know some good sources! I am in love with Hillside Sheffield. I added a similar Chrysanthemum in color but it’s in its first year so not very vigorous yet. Seeing yours I look very forward to it!

Pat Webster October 16, 2014, 6:41 am

Wow! That’s some blooming display. The colchicums are fabulous against the stone wall.

Kathy Purdy October 16, 2014, 8:22 am

Thanks, Pat. Those colchicums came to me under several different names, but I believe they are ‘Giant’ or ‘The Giant’, not to be confused with C. giganteum, which is a different plant that’s not as big. They multiply rather quickly, so are perfect where you need a big display. But the color is less striking than say, ‘Beaconsfield’.